April 9, 2019 Norah Jones – Begin Again (Album Review)
Nine-time Grammy Award-winner Norah Jones knows a little something about making amazing music. On Begin Again, she branches out in the name of fun, experimenting with some new sounds. This collection of singles arrives Friday, April 12, 2019, thanks to Blue Note Records.
Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, storyteller. What is there that Miss Jones cannot do? With over 50 million records sold worldwide, an astounding 9 Grammys, and countless awards and accolades to her name, Jones is a musical powerhouse. She first emerged onto the world stage in 2002 with her astounding debut, Come Away With Me.
Since then, she has released a series of critically acclaimed and commercially successful solo albums— from 2004’s Feels Like Home to 2016’s Day Breaks —as well as albums with her collective bands The Little Willies and Puss N Boots. The 2010 compilation …Featuring Norah Jones showcased her incredible versatility by collecting her collaborations with such diverse artists as Willie Nelson, Outkast, Herbie Hancock, and Foo Fighters.
Most recently, Jones has released a series of eclectic singles including collaborations with artists and friends such as Wilco Frontman Jeff Tweedy and Producer Thomas Bartlett (also known as Doveman). Compiling these singles into one cohesive unit, the 7-song Begin Again was largely self-produced, though Bartlett and Tweedy also earn production credits. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, throughout the collection, Jones plays piano (including Rhodes and celeste), organ, drums, as well as acoustic guitar.
A heart beats to the sound of Jones’ sultry vocals as she opens Begin Again with “My Heart Is Full.” Here, she soars toward the heavens alongside electronic atmospherics, though, shockingly, there’s no piano. Despite its outward delicacy, “My Heart Is Full” is powerful in its mission to open listeners eyes, to embracing love without hate. Fear not! Piano returns to open the titular “Begin Again,” a jazzy little bop full of boldly soaring piano melodies and some sociopolitical leanings. Although the collection, as a whole, goes for a more light-hearted approach, this is the signature track that most screams Norah Jones.
Although, strike that! The smoky little Jazz number “It Was You” is also exactly what the doctor ordered. With the perfect complement to Jones’ vocal-piano perfection coming via trumpet (thanks to Dave Guy) and tenor saxophone (thanks to Leon Michels), this little ditty paints the picture of sitting inside a dark New York club, watching Jones tinkle those ivories. Next, a bizarre contrast of violent imagery and loving caresses, “A Song With No Name” flutters across the surface of the skin like a butterfly’s wings, a delicate, largely acoustic offering that highlights Jones’ ethereal vocals. There is a slight psychedelia here, one that lends a gentle throwback to a more peace-loving time.
“Uh Oh” utilizes subtle electronic beats to complement Jones’ honey-coated vocals wonderfully creating sonic gold. It’s certainly one of the more experimental tracks on the collection, but a perfect example of how Jones is talented no matter how you package her. Meanwhile, Country guitar twang opens into “Wintertime,” a fireside piano session that reads like a dreamy ode to struggling through the coldest months, surviving thanks to the tenderness and compassion of a lover who serves as your own personal sunshine.
Ultimately, the brass talents of Guy and Michels return for “Just A Little Bit,” where Jones’ vocals are treated with studio effects that add a slight psychedelia to the entire offering — echoing back to “A Song With No Name.” The end result is a closing number that goes a little funky, wrapping up a sweet little collection that takes chances in the name of inspired eclecticism.
Begin Again is a diverse little collection that sees Jones experimenting with some new sounds while having fun. Certainly fans should understand that the collection clocks in at just under 30 minutes and is, therefore, more appropriately an EP than a full-length album. However you slice it, Begin Again serves the purpose of allowing Jones to explore new sonic territory with a little help from friends, while always maintaining her beautifully soft, fine wine vocal approach. Inspired to try new things and share them with the world, Jones shines on her eclectic little collection. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Norah Jones’ Begin Again 4.5 of 5 stars.